NASA is getting into the 3D printing business. At NASA's Ames Research Center, engineers and researchers are experimenting with the technology with the hope that one day their creations will be used in space exploration. "Space Shop is our attempt to take the best practices and lessons learned from what we call the maker community," said Dave Korsmeyer, the director of engineering at NASA Ames.
The program is still in its nascent stages. But NASA sees potential in the technology because it enables designers and engineers to get the manufacturing information early in the design process and can add value early on. "We want to get the young engineers, designers, and implementers of our space and aerospace missions to come in with their ideas today and their thoughts on how they're going to build something and try it out," Korsmeyer said.
The tools and process at NASA in many ways mirror any TechShop workshops you might see around the nation. Engineers are able to design and then print out various 3D components. Korsmeyer said, "There's a a laser cutter for sheet metal and wood that allows us to cut very complex geometric shapes in very high precision, so it can all fit together in a very high-tech fashion."
CNET recently visited NASA Ames to get an inside look.